Be­ware: those ‘health’ drinks pack a su­gar kick

Nutri­tion­ist warns whether it’s honey or re­fined, it’s all still su­gar.

Herald on Sunday - - WE SALUTE YOU - By Tess Ni­chol

Well­ness wor­ri­ers be warned: some drinks tar­get­ing health con­scious con­sumers have more su­gar in them than sports drinks.

Oth­ers are us­ing trendy in­gre­di­ents like co­conut or cane su­gar, or say­ing they sweeten their drinks with fruit juice.

There was no real dif­fer­ence be­tween these and re­fined white su­gar, one Auck­land nutri­tion­ist has warned.

The case against su­gar as a key driver of neg­a­tive health im­pacts is grow­ing stronger while de­mand for well­ness prod­ucts in­creases, thanks to global trends to­ward “clean” or “healthy” life­styles.

Com­par­ing 11 sports and life­style drinks, the Her­ald on Sun­day found nearly two-thirds con­tained enough su­gar to meet or ex­ceed half the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rec­om­mended daily adult in­take of 26 grams of su­gar.

A Teza fei­joa and lime blos­som iced tea mar­keted as be­ing nat­u­rally brewed and or­ganic with 6.3g of su­gar per 100ml con­tained more su­gar than a Pow­er­ade sports drink with 5.8g per 100ml.

Manu­kee’s pear and gin­ger juice with manuka honey drink had 6.8g of su­gar per 100ml. The com­pany’s CEO, York Spencer, said the su­gar com­po­nent was nat­u­rally a part of manuka honey, which was part of the prod­uct’s ap­peal in it­self.

Teza spokesman Joe Gehrke said the com­pany was not mar­ket­ing their teas as a low-su­gar drink and there were no false claims on its pack­ag­ing.

“Our in­for­mal fo­cus groups has shown us that about 6 per cent sugars is where most peo­ple find a drink be­gins to taste ‘wa­tery’.

“Most peo­ple do not like the taste of nat­u­ral sweet­en­ers such as Ste­via.”

Both Teza and Manu­kee, whose sin­gle-serve drinks con­tained more than half the rec­om­mended daily amount of su­gar, said their serv­ing sizes were de­lib­er­ately small to re­duce over­all su­gar con­sump­tion.

Healthy Food Guide nutri­tion­ist Claire Turn­bull said the amount of su­gar in some drinks was wor­ry­ing be­cause most peo­ple drank them on top of a snack or meal.

“Drinks are a very easy way to get a lot of en­ergy with­out re­al­is­ing it,” she said.

Sports drinks such as Pow­er­ade or Lu­cozade, which has 9.1g of su­gar per 100ml, were ap­pro­pri­ate for peo­ple do­ing enor­mous amounts of ex­er­cise be­cause they did pro­vide rapid hy­dra­tion, she said. But this came at a cost of high su­gar con­sump­tion.

When it came to well­ness prod­ucts, brand­ing could be mis­lead­ing, Turn­bull said.

Us­ing phrases like “no re­fined su­gar” or trendy in­gre­di­ents like agave syrup could make it seem as if the prod­uct had health ben­e­fits it did not.

“A lot of the time they’ll say nat­u­ral, they’ll say no added su­gar, they’ll say sweet­ened with fruit juice, and it can cre­ate a false im­pres­sion of how good for you they are.”

Mar­ket­ing would of­ten spec­ify that co­conut or cane sugars, or syrup like agave had been used in­stead of white re­fined su­gar, Turn­bull said.

“That makes it kind of sound like it’s some­how bet­ter than nor­mal su­gar but whether it’s brown su­gar, white su­gar, co­conut su­gar, maple syrup or honey this all still needs to be con­sid­ered as part of the 26 grams a day.”

Su­gar from fruit, when juiced, also counted to­ward the daily to­tal, she said.

“Juice is a re­ally, re­ally big trap. When you have fruit juice, and veg­etable juice for that mat­ter, you are squeez­ing it, con­cen­trat­ing all the su­gar, re­mov­ing all the fi­bre. So you couldn’t pos­si­bly eat the vol­ume of fruit and veg­eta­bles that are in some of these drinks.”

Peo­ple would be bet­ter off eat­ing a piece of whole fruit for the health of both their bod­ies and their wal­lets, she said.

It may not be so ex­cit­ing, but Turn­bull said the best way to stay hy­drated was to sim­ply drink wa­ter.

Of all well­ness drinks on the mar­ket, kom­bucha was the only one Turn­bull said had po­ten­tial ben­e­fits and low enough su­gar con­tent that she would opt to drink it.

The fer­mented drink had po­ten­tial ben­e­fits for gut health and was gen­er­ally low in su­gar.

How­ever even kom­bucha could vary wildly in su­gar lev­els, and con­sumers needed to check the la­bel, she said.

Fru­cor, which owns Ga­torade and Lu­cozade, and Coca Cola, which owns Pow­er­ade and Vi­ta­min Wa­ter, did not re­spond to re­quest for com­ment.

CHIA, which owns Awaka co­conut wa­ter, said it had re­cently re­worked the drink’s for­mula to re­duce su­gar con­tent to 3.3g per 100ml.

Bruce Juice, Ceres Or­gan­ics and Bayer, which owns the Be­rocca brand, all de­clined to com­ment.

“A lot of the time they’ll say nat­u­ral . . . and it can cre­ate a false im­pres­sion of how good for you they are.” Claire Turn­bull

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